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SWRC - Barefoot College

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Background & History

In 1972 Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, inspired by the need for a new way of addressing rural poverty, started the SWRC (Social work research centre) with the goal of setting up clean water and local irrigation technology for rural communities. With the help from a friend, Meghraj, an old British health care center in India was rented to host a night school for training local individuals in local rural communities . Night classed which took place in what is now known as the old school, allowed students to work in their current employment (necessary for supporting their families) and still have the ability to learn in new areas. Through the history of the SWRC focus has moved toward education, empowerment and building sustainable communities. Education and training occurs across a diverse, and important list, of necessary areas that support the building of sustainable and independent communities. The SWRC rejects the business model, which they feel is used too often, stating that this model leaves the very poor, or very marginalized behind, these individuals are "human beings, not consumers." [1]The success of the SWRC has stemmed from the idea of training and educating people in the way they can help their community from within, "Development must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves" The SWRC is now commonly known as Barefoot College[2].

Originally teachers were health care workers, but as the school has grown, and aged, individuals who have received ten years or more of training now are educators. This furthers the goal of the organization, to create sustainable communities

Areas of Education and Training

Area of Training Focus Areas
Community health T.B. Eradication Programs, Midwivery training, Prenatal health, Women’s health, Health Check up programs
Community education Preschools (over 3,000 students annually), regular training for teachers, Night schools (4,000+ students in attendance)
Solar Energy Workshops and training
Mechanical training metalcraft, providing gainful employment

Women Barefoot Solar Engineers (WBSE), solar energy used for cooking etc. & learn to repair solar mechanisms, electricity [3]

Handcrafts promotions, & training in handcraft areas
Communication Audio-visual unit, videographer training, videos on health, education, environment, Women's rights
Carpentry Workshops, also available for individuals with handicaps, building structure training
Toy production Using recycled materials
Computer training
Community radio FM - Narrowcast

Values & Beliefs

SWRC, Barefoot Colleges, is built on the foundation of Gandhian beliefs, to lift individuals out of poverty with dignity and self-respect and that resources and tools should be in the hands of the people in the community, to avoid dependency and exploitation.

The difference between literacy and education is acknowledged as many individuals within Barefoot School are considered to be illiterate. Barefoot College holds the belief that education is gained from family, traditions, culture, the environment, and personal experience. While literacy is merely what an individual learns in school. [5]

Barefoot College holds six "Non-Negotiable Values" that are central to the function and sustainability of the program

1. Austerity
2. Equality
3. Collective decision making
4. Decentralization
5. Transparency and accountability [2]

Women's Empowerment

Barefoot college (SWRC), with the focus on employing and empowering women has partnered with UNESCO and UNDP, which are UN funded programs, to allow women from areas around the globe who are living in rural poverty stricken areas to come and attend training within Barefoot college. This training allows for women in countries such as Gambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Bhutan to return home with knowledge that will be incredibly beneficial to their communities.

Recognizing that in order to have a sustainable, and self-relient society, Barefoot College believes everyone needs to be participating within the community. [6]